An Ayurvedic Expert's 5 Favorite Oils For Soft, Firm Skin
Botanical oils are a core part of Ayurvedic beauty. Rooted in the traditions of Ayurvedic medicine, the beauty philosophy celebrates the uniqueness of the individual and the skin. By treating folks based on their doshas (or more accurately, their unique combination of doshas), Ayurveda helps bring the body as a whole to balance. And one way that's done for the skin is through the use of specific botanical oils.
Holecek not only grew up in a household that practiced Ayurveda, but her family's centuries-old farm in central India grows botanicals that turn into some of the most exquisite essential oils in the world—used by some of the most prestigious beauty companies around. She's contributed to mindbodygreen in the past, and her stories on Ayurvedic beauty are still some of our most popular.
Recently, as we roll into a new season, I've been thinking a lot about my use of oils. I avoided them at all costs in my younger years, but now it's like I can't get enough of them. Gliding on a high-quality oil just makes me feel so special.
So I revisited our episode on what botanical oils I should be looking for. Here, three of her favorites.
A classic: Sandalwood oil
Sandalwood has a long history of use within Ayurveda. The precious oil is considered one of the finest.
"As far back as I can remember, I've always had an oil in my routine, but sandalwood, in particular, is my favorite. Sandalwood has a very rich history in Ayurveda. Any sort of crown jewel skin care treatment in India, it always contains sandalwood," Holecek once told me about the oil, which is featured prominently in Uma Absolute Anti-Aging Facial Oil. "It is always a staple for me because whatever I'm struggling with, it seems to solve—whether that be dullness, dryness, or tired-looking skin, they all seem to be resolved pretty easily with this very high-quality oil."
Sandalwood's not only a very safe oil to use, but research shows that it's been helpful in mending inflammatory skin conditions like acne and eczema1. Its fatty acid profile makes it an excellent option for soothing the skin barrier, and finally the antioxidant properties mean it can help deal with dullness, fine lines, and other signs of aging.
For body massage: Sunflower, sesame and coconut oil
In Ayurvedic beauty, it's very important to treat the skin on the body with the same attention that you might the face.
That's because the body is viewed as a system, and it's important to care for it as a whole. In particular, body massage with botanical oils is a very important ritual.
"Body massages—especially if you focus on particular pressure points, like the fleshy part between your thumb and your finger—can help bring your body back to a place of balance and calm. Your skin will thrive when your body is calm," she says.
She notes that she likes using sunflower seed oil on the body, especially for vata types. Sunflower seed oil2 contains mainly linoleic and oleic fatty acids. It also has a high amount of vitamin E for antioxidant benefits. It's also a very light oil that dries down quickly, which makes it ideal for the body. (It's often called a dry oil for this reason.)
For mature skin: Pomegranate on the face
Pomegranate seed oil is an ideal facial oil for any dosha or skin type, says Holecek. Not only does the oil contain fatty acids, but it's very high in antioxidants like vitamin C, polyphenols, and more. This makes it ideal for tending to the needs of mature skin.
In fact, one study found a compound within pomegranate seed oil was shown to improve the growth of skin cells and improve skin hydration and elasticity. And thanks to its vitamin C, it can also support the body's collagen production. Vitamin C is a vital part of the collagen synthesis process, so using it topically may help with firmness and fading fine lines.
Alexandra Engler is the beauty director at mindbodygreen and host of the beauty podcast Clean Beauty School. Previously, she's held beauty roles at Harper's Bazaar, Marie Claire, SELF, and Cosmopolitan; her byline has appeared in Esquire, Sports Illustrated, and Allure.com. In her current role, she covers all the latest trends in the clean and natural beauty space, as well as lifestyle topics, such as travel. She received her journalism degree from Marquette University, graduating first in the department. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.